RENO, Nev. – State wildlife officials raided three residences in the Reno area where they seized more than 100 African clawed frogs, which they say are prohibited because they can pose a serious danger to native frogs and entire ecosystems.
No charges have been filed against the people who illegally possessed a total of 119 frogs because they are cooperating fully with law enforcement to "get any and all prohibited frogs off the streets," the Nevada Department of Wildlife said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We are very pleased we were able to seize them before they were circulated to people in the area and possibly escaped into the wild," said Cameron Waithman, game warden captain for NDOW's Division of Law Enforcement.
African clawed frogs grow about as large as bullfrogs and can destroy entire ecosystems by voraciously eating native fish, amphibians and just about anything they can swallow, he said.
Scientists also believe these frogs carry and spread an African fungus that has decimated frog populations worldwide, Waithman said. The frog carries the fungus on its skin and is immune to its deadly effects.
Because of the danger the frogs pose, people who knowingly possess such amphibians face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, he said.
"If people turn these frogs in voluntarily, we don't have an interest in writing them tickets," said Waithman.
"However, if we find even more people involved with keeping and selling these frogs, we will prosecute at the conclusion of our investigations. These amphibians really are a threat to Nevada, and we have a duty to seize any and all that we find."
The African clawed frog was used in hospitals in the 1940s and 1950s as a way to detect pregnancy in women. It produces eggs when injected with the urine of a pregnant woman.
Scientists say the fungus on the frogs works like a parasite that makes it difficult for the frogs to use their pores, quickly causing them to die of dehydration. It has been linked to the extinction of amphibians from Australia to Costa Rica.
Japan reported its first cases of frog deaths from the fungus in January 2007, prompting research groups to declare an emergency in the country. On the Caribbean island of Dominica, the fungus has almost wiped out the mountain chicken, a frog species considered an island delicacy.